Singer-songwriter Paul Simon’s latest honour has come from the Poetry Society of America.
The veteran performer was celebrated during a dinner benefit at the New York Botanical Garden alongside poetry editor Alice Quinn, the other guest of honour.
Their careers have both lasted for decades and making them revered names among lovers of words.
Quinn has championed Sharon Olds, Edward Hirsch and countless other poets as an adjunct professor at Columbia University, the poetry editor at The New Yorker and an editor at Alfred A. Knopf.
She is stepping down as executive editor of the poetry society, where she has served since 2001.
Quinn noted that Simon had been a supporter of the poetry society and remembered seeing him in the offices of Knopf, which published a book of his lyrics.
Simon was then introduced by former US poet laureate Billy Collins, who noted that Simon was among the first rock songwriters to use the word “poetry” in a song (I Am A Rock) and to name poets, reading lines about Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson from Simon’s A Dangling Conversation.
Simon joked about making room for his poetry society award among his “shelves and shelves” of prizes, right next to a special trophy for being the “best-dressed dad”.
His acceptance came in three parts: He read work by two poets who died this year, Les Murray and W.S. Merwin; chatted briefly on stage with Collins about writing; and, to everyone’s obvious pleasure, performed a few songs.
Simon, 77, has retired from touring and his voice sounded strained at first.
But he grew stronger, and even danced a little, as he ran through such favourites as Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard and The Boxer, asking the audience to join in on the chorus of Lie-La-Lie as a small backing group added touches of jazz and Cajun music.